Warwick Castle was among the first castles built by William the Conqueror. It sits in a bend in the River Avon and uses the river and its cliffs for natural defences. William's plan was to use the castle to secure the Midlands on way north.
The original castle was a Norman motte-and-bailey castle built on top of an older Anglo-Saxon fortification in 1068. Henry de Beaumont was the castle's first constable and he was made Earl of Warwick in 1088.
During the reign of Henry II Warwick Castle was upgraded with a stone shell keep and buildings built along its new curtain walls.
Warwick played it part in both Barons' Wars, staying loyal to the king in both. During the first rebellion in 1173 it was used to store provisions. In the Second Baron's War one of the main antagonists, Simon de Montford, attacked from nearby Kenilworth Castle. He took Warwick Castle and slighted it to render it useless.
In 1267 the castle and its titles passed into the hands of the de Beauchamp family. They held it for 180 years and made numerous additions to the castle. In the 14th Century the castle defences were repaired and extended with the addition of a new gatehouse and barbican and no less than three towers. Guy's Tower, Caesar's Tower and the Watergate Tower contain every defensive advance. They are vaulted in stone on every storey and have parapets and are machicolated.
The height of the Earl's power came in the mid-15th Century. Richard de Beauchamp was appointed tutor to Prince Henry (Henry VI) and his successor, via marriage, Richard Neville had such influence over the English monarchy that he was called 'Kingmaker'. In 1469 he rebelled against Edward IV and imprisoned him at Warwick. He then attempted to rule in the King's name. Neville was eventually forced to release the king and was subsequently killed during the Wars of the Roses.
The castle was taken into the custody of the crown when Neville died, leaving the castle to his son-in-law George Plantagenet. George was executed in 1478 and his son Edward was imprisoned at the Tower of London and eventually executed due to his claim to the throne.
The castle remained in the hands of the crown until the mid-16th Century. A number of repairs and renovations were made, but despite this its condition continued to deteriorate. In 1604 the partially ruined castle was given to Sir Fulke Greville by James I. The Greville family occupied it until the 20th Century.
The castle was involved in the English Civil War. It was besieged to little effect in 1642 and Caesar's and Guy's Towers were used to hold prisoners. A garrison was maintained at the castle from 1643 to 1660 at which point it was handed back to Francis Greville, 3rd Baron Brooke.
In the 18th Century Francis Greville, 8th Baron Brooke, lavishly refurbished the castle as a country house and the renowned landscaper 'Capability' Brown was commissioned to redesign the grounds.
In 1978 the castle was sold to the Tussaud's Group, now part of Merlin Entertainments Group, who put in a lot of work to restore and develop the castle. Warwick Castle is now one of England's top tourist attractions with daily shows, demonstrations and tours. Displays in the castle include period furnishings, an impressive collection of armoury that rivals the Tower of London's displays, waxwork models demonstrating life in the castle through the ages and live actor tours.
In the grounds visitors can see the firing of a massive working medieval trebuchet. The castle hosts regular events including concerts, banquets, falconry displays and tournaments. The castle is also open for corporate hospitality and events and for wedding parties.
Status: Museum / Event Venue / Wedding Venue / Corporate Hospitality
Owner: Merlin Entertainments Group
Tel: 0871 265 2000
Opening Times: Open daily 10am to 5pm
Warwick Castle viewed from the River Avon
Looking along the river at Warwick Castle